TODAY took a break from the news business Friday to put on a pop-culture party — its annual “Halloween on the Plaza” extravaganza. Viewers and a chilly Rockefeller Plaza crowd alike got a chance to go Gaga, catch Bieber Fever, and gawk at two high-flying legends.
TODAY’s Meredith Vieira, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Ann Curry pulled out all the stops for their Halloween getups, joined by stars Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, who portrayed the characters for whom they provide voices in the new animated fantasy “Megamind.”
Co-host Matt Lauer was off on assignment conducting an interview with former President George W. Bush, yet he still got things rolling with a taped segment in which he headed out into the Manhattan morning to catch his flight. His travel was interrupted by a cell phone plea for help from “Megamind’s” ace TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Fey), who had been kidnapped and tied to railroad tracks.
This is a job for... Al?
Lauer looked for a phone booth and found one occupied by Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” Once the actor vacated the booth, Lauer popped in.
In a moment, out of the phone booth burst the Man of Steel himself, now impersonated by Al Roker in spandex and a wig. Superman was joined by Megamind (Ferrell), and they set about rescuing Roxanne (Fey), who was tied none too securely to railroad tracks and menaced by an oncoming model train. She was freed with ease.
Next came newsreel footage describing aviator Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance while attempting to circle the globe in 1937, at the end of which it was revealed that Earhart had finally been found alive and well on Rockefeller Plaza — in the form of Ann Curry, in vintage aviatrix gear.
“Man! That was a long flight!” Earhart (Curry) exclaimed. “I knew I should have taken the train.”
Bieber fever dream
But Earhart’s return speech was interrupted by the shrieks of young women who had spotted a more contemporary idol on the plaza. And amid flashing lights and dry ice, Canadian tween heartthrob Justin Bieber — or at least a reasonable facsimile, in the form of TODAY’s Natalie Morales — took the plaza stage. Complete with Justin’s trademark side-swept bangs, Morales showed off her best dance moves. But she proved to be just a warm-up act for the main event.
“You ready, little monsters?” Bieber (Morales) yelled while revealing none other than reigning pop superstar Lady Gaga, portrayed by TODAY anchor Meredith Vieira. In a formfitting pink hoop gown, Vieira belted out Gaga’s signature hit “Bad Romance” while the crowd on the plaza — many in bizarre costumes themselves — cheered in approval.
The party continued as Roker announced a very special guest: President Barack Obama. Looking every inch the Commander in Chief, complete with Secret Service entourage, President Obama (actually TODAY’s own Tamron Hall) pressed the flesh in the crowd before mounting a presidential podium set up on Rockefeller Plaza.
“As you can imagine, I’m pretty busy right now, but when I was invited to see the crowd at the TODAY Show, I could not resist,” Hall-Obama intoned. “God bless America. Happy Halloween!”
It was only the latest chapter in TODAY’s history of over-the-top Halloween celebrations. In 2009, the talent dressed as “Stars Wars” characters: Vieira as Princess Leia, Lauer as Luke Skywalker, Curry as Darth Vader, Roker as Han Solo, Kathie Lee Gifford as C-3PO, Morales as Queen Padme Amidala, and Hoda Kotb as Yoda.
In 2008, the anchors donned whimsical costumes from children’s favorite bedtime stories: Vieira as Pinocchio, Lauer as Humpty Dumpty, Roker as a gingerbread man and Curry as Cinderella. A year earlier, TODAY dressed as the title characters from the iconic TV show “The Munsters,” with Lauer as Herman, Vieira as Lily, Roker as Grandpa, Kotb as Marilyn and Morales as Eddie.
After the big reveal of this year’s TODAY Halloween outfits, the gang gathered to compare their costumes. Ferrell and Roker commiserated over having to wear tights to make their looks complete.
In the 10 a.m. hour, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford unveiled their costumes, which also raided pop culture: Gifford was Lucille Ball’s immortal “I Love Lucy” character Lucy Ricardo, and Hoda was her pal Ethel Mertz as they re-created the immortal “grape-stomping” episode in which Lucy took a job in an Italian vineyard.